Socialize, Socialize, Socialize: Get your puppy out into the world as soon as it’s safe to do so. Once they have two sets of the vaccines recommended by your vet, take them to training classes, enroll them in a dog camp, and take them to the park. Make sure they see all different kinds of people of varying ages, races, sexes and in different settings. The same goes for other animals as well. Expose them to as much variation as possible.
Teach them some basic obedience: Learn to communicate with your pet. We can’t expect them to navigate the human world if we don’t give them the vocabulary and skills to do so. It is good for you too. People who are involved in training their pets develop a much stronger bond with them.
Get them to the groomer: What does grooming do beyond getting your puppy spiffed up? It teaches them patience and it makes any holes in your training readily apparent. The one true test of training has always been: will the dog allow their nails to be trimmed?!
Don’t forget that they are still a dog: This is a two part issue. First, don’t treat your tiny lap dog like a baby. No matter the size, a dog is a dog is a dog. When we treat them like fragile babies what we really create are unstable monsters that run our lives. Dogs need to be treated as dogs.
Don’t forget that they are still dogs part 2: Even though your big, laid back Golden lets the kids climb all over him, he is still a dog. If you watch closely you will see the signs of stress. Did you know that more “good” dogs are euthanized because of bites than “bad” dogs? We don’t push the envelope with bad dogs but we will push our good dog until they snap and claim we never saw it coming. Dogs need to be treated like dogs.
Fences make good neighbors: Don’t let your dog run loose. Keep your fence and gates in good order. Otherwise you run the risk of your dog getting lost or injured and other pets can become injured or even worse, our neighbors can become injured, frightened or just plain angry.
Keep in mind that not everyone loves dogs: As much as you love your dog, there are a lot of folks out there who may be frightened of or simply don’t like dogs. Even plenty of people who enjoy dogs don’t appreciate someone else’s dog jumping on them or their pet. Respect other’s boundaries.
Find ways to allow your dog to do what he or she was bred for: We forget that many of our favorite breeds were actually developed for a purpose. Put your Labrador in dock dog contests; take your herding breed to a herding clinic. Your hunting dog may love fetching a dummy even if you never want to spend single day hunting. There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing a dog exercise their inherent abilities.
Learn to recognize the signs of stress in your pet and others: The dog park will be a lot more enjoyable if you learn to see the signs of impending disaster before it occurs. Learn to tell if the excitement level is over the top; if the crazy unbalanced small dog is tipping everyone else over the edge. We expect our dogs to read us but we rarely return the favor.
Keep your dog healthy: Keep your pet current on vaccines and parasite protection so that they are not spreading disease. Spay and neuter to decrease the urge to wander. Make sure that your older pet is pain free so he/she doesn’t strike out in pain. Healthy pets are happy pets and happy pets make for happy owners.